Why "71º & Sunny?"

I consider 71º to be the perfect temperature. Not too cold and not too hot. I also love perfect sunny days. The vast majority of days are not 71º & Sunny and yet, all days were created by God's hand and they are still gifts, even if they don't fit my ridiculous definition of perfection. My struggle with OCD has at times imprisoned me in an impossible attempt to achieve perfection. I'm now learning to love all kinds of days that don't even come close to 71º & Sunny.

Please leave me a comment below. I really want to know what you are thinking!

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Misnomer of "Pure O"

Have you ever heard of "Pure O"? It's a term used to describe a type of OCD where the sufferer has no compulsions, but only obsessions. Obsessions are the unwanted, and often frightening thoughts that enter a person's mind, and they can cause an incredible amount of distress. Compulsions are what a person does to try to either get rid of or neutralize the terrifying obsessions - like washing their hands or turning the light switch off and on multiple times. (For a broader, but brief, explanation of the basics of OCD, including more detail on obsessions and compulsions, please see my tab entitled "So, What Is OCD?".) Many people use the term "Pure O" to describe themselves if they are consumed with horrible obsessions and they appear to have no compulsions. For example, Scrupulosity is a sub-type of OCD that at times is placed under the category of "Pure O." People with intrusive thoughts are commonly labeled "Pure O," as well.

After speaking with many OCD sufferers over the years, including several who consider themselves "Pure O," I am convinced that the term "Pure O" is not accurate. I have come to the conclusion that every OCD sufferer has compulsions of some type. Many times, the compulsions will only be mental, and because they are not physical, the sufferer (and often their therapist, if he or she is not properly trained or has limited experience with OCD) will not recognize that these compulsions exist. Moreover, if you look very closely, I suspect that most of these people also have at least some physical compulsions as well.

One of the reasons that I cringe every time I hear the term "Pure O" is that it can (incorrectly, in my opinion) reinforce the idea that the person does not have compulsions. And more importantly, it may give the idea that ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention) would not be effective for this type of OCD. I have heard more than one sufferer express their dismay that ERP won't work for them, because they think that they have no compulsions to attack with ERP.

First, it is important to recognize the compulsions. If a person tries to keep on thinking about something in a certain way, or the "right" way - that is probably a mental compulsion. Re-thinking things over and over again, to try to remember what really happened, is probably a mental compulsion. Avoiding looking at someone or something, or looking away from someone or something, because it is triggering is - yep, you guessed it, probably a compulsion (and I would say that qualifies as a physical compulsion). Leaving a room because something or someone in that room is triggering - physical compulsion. Praying over and over again to get it just right - mental compulsion. Having to be seated a certain way or in a certain position while compulsively praying - physical compulsion. Confessing things to people over and over again to reduce anxiety - physical compulsion. Avoiding going to church because it triggers fears - physical compulsion.

Essentially, anything a person actively does (mentally or physically) to minimize the pain and anxiety of the scary thoughts, is a compulsion. If the patient and therapist can identify the compulsions and separate them from the obsessions, then a plan of action can be taken to create and tailor specific ERPs to fight the OCD.

I truly believe "Pure O" sufferers are absolutely not beyond help and that there is hope for this type of OCD too.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

It's Time!

                                    Photo Courtesy of Int'l OCD Foundation

It's time once again to register for the International Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Foundation Annual Conference! It is being held in Boston, Massachusetts (why that's practically my backyard!) on 7/31-8/2. So, of course, Jim and I will be there and we hope to see you too. There are also some pre-conference events taking place on 7/30, and in addition, there is a special two day intensive CBT treatment program available on 7/29-30, with another program on 8/2-3. This special program is a great opportunity for conference attendees who can't find treatment in their home area.

I love seeing the historical
Boston architecture juxtaposed
against the new.
I have already attended 3 conferences, and I've learned something new at each. From what I understand, it is the only conference of its kind, bringing patients, researchers, and treatment providers together all at once. It is a unique opportunity to meet (and learn from) some of the very people who are working hard to bring hope and healing to the OCD community and I highly recommend attending. In addition, Boston is a great place to visit and explore.

See you in Beantown!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Book Review: "Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery" - Janet Singer with Seth J. Gillihan

Ever since I gave birth to my own child almost 30 years ago, I've often thought that it was like an actual piece of my heart left my body and was now walking around in the form of my son. I think it is not a stretch to imagine that is how Janet Singer feels about her own children. I like to think of "Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery" as a love story, featuring the selfless love a parent has for a suffering and hurting child. In this case, it is the story of Janet and Gary Singer, and their college student son, Dan, who was struggling with severe OCD.

I was excited, and a bit nervous, when Janet asked me to read and then review her book. I was nervous because, well, what if I didn't like the book? Phew. No worries there. I love this book. I mean, I really love this book. It is very well written and flows easily through what was probably one of the most painful years of the Singer family's lives. I had a hard time putting the book down and read it in its entirety in a handful of sittings.

At times, I longed to hear more about Dan's obsessions and what the thoughts were behind his particular compulsions. However, I began to suspect that perhaps Janet was protecting his privacy, or maybe she was purposely not making those things the focus of her memoir. After all, the content of obsessions and any particular compulsions are really not the important thing. No matter how you slice it, it's still OCD, and OCD, regardless of each person's individual particulars, gets treated in essentially the same fashion: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) using Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).

What Janet did focus on was her and Gary's attempts to help their son navigate through the mental health care system so he could find healing and hopefully, a return to a more "normal" life. What a journey that was! From incompetent doctors, to improper medication, and through the difficult, but effective, treatment of ERP, Janet and Gary were there the whole time to advocate for and encourage Dan. At one point, they even picked up and moved their entire lives so they could be close to Dan when he returned to college. It ended up being a very wise decision.

"Overcoming OCD" also has a co-author, Seth J. Gillihan, Ph.D. Throughout the book, Dr. Gillihan adds thoughtful and informative commentary abut OCD, and more importantly, treatment, including ERP and medication. His input is spot-on and adds a critically important component to the book. These are not throwaway or filler remarks. They are filled with solid information that sufferers and their families can use to guide them forward through the maze of battling OCD.

Lastly, there is a "Resources" section at the end of the book listing helpful organizations, treatment centers, and other books. I always appreciate it when an author is considerate enough to include that type of information.

After finishing the book, I was left with a few thoughts:

1. Would I be as selfless if my own son needed me in this way? Oh I sure hope so!

2. It is absolutely crucial that family members advocate for a loved one who is ill and suffering, especially if the illness (physical or mental) causes them to have a decline in their ability to make good decisions for their own health.

3. Trust my instincts. I must do the homework and the research about the illness so that I can make informed and educated decisions, but at the end of the day, I need to trust my instincts.

"Overcoming OCD" is a big win for me, and I will gladly recommend it, along with my long beloved other favorite OCD memoir, "Rewind, Replay, Repeat" by Jeff Bell.

"Ovecoming OCD," ISBN 978-1-4422-3944-9, is now available in hardcover, coming in at 206 pages, and it is published by Rowman & Littlefield. It is also available for Kindle!

My only compensation was a free copy of "Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery" from the publisher, in exchange for my honest book review.

Monday, March 16, 2015

I'm Waiting

Thank you everyone for your prayers and thoughtful comments on my previous post. It so warmed my heart and reminded me of God's love and care. I'm really struggling while I'm in this time period but I know God is working behind the scenes. And I just need to wait on Him to show me what to do and what decisions to make. There are Bible verses that talk about waiting on the Lord and I never really understood them, until it was explained to me what it meant to "wait" on the Lord. It's not a passive, hanging around until He does something. It's waiting - kind of like how a restaurant server waits upon customers - responding to and fulfilling their requests. We are to wait, as in serve, upon the Lord. So I'm desperately trying to do that right now. I'm not always very successful. I definitely don't always have the right attitude. And peace is mostly still eluding me. But I'm going to keep trying. Because I know that at just the right time, God will make His path for me known.

For several years I've loved the song "While I'm Waiting" by John Waller. I find it no small coincidence that last evening, while I was really struggling with panic and depression, as we were channel surfing, we passed the movie "Fireproof" literally just as this beautiful song was beginning to play. Jim stopped and let it play out for me so I could be ministered by it. And the tears flowed. I know many of you are experiencing tough times now. Just last week, Tina, of "Bringing Along OCD" expressed similar struggles with waiting for things to happen. I'm hoping this might speak to her and to you too.

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31 KJV

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Decisions, Decisions

Hello wonderful friends! I hope you are all doing well.

Decisions. I have a lot to make. The first decision I had to make was to be truthful here with this post. Oh how I hate posting that I am not doing well! I just feel like I am letting people down. I don't want to do anything to lessen a fellow sufferer's hope and I always feel like that is what I am doing when I show the less than pleasant side of things. But I have made a commitment to myself to be honest, and honest I shall be. I am really not doing well. And I think it is a combination of things.

I was on such an incredible emotional high after I completed CBT/ERP in the Spring of 2012. That high lasted for roughly a year and a half. The world just tasted sweeter. I was alive and every waking moment wasn't painful anymore, and the sun was shining (even when it really wasn't), and, and . . . The list goes on. But for the last year and half, I could feel depression creeping back into my life. I have no idea why.
My sweetie pie taking a nap.

In addition my beloved kitty, Anna, died early last summer. Then we got our pup Fender. I love him dearly, but it has been a big transition and his ill health causes some major stress because of how it continues to affect our lives. I've had some difficulties with a few relationships too (not my husband) that have left me hurt and confused and wondering how to move forward. I'm also working part-time again for the first time in a decade and a half. I love my job and my coworkers, but I'm still adjusting to the demands on my schedule, and the schedule itself keeps changing and that brings me a lot of stress. This has left me wondering whether I should keep the job or not.

Lastly, I did something really stupid. I was working an insane number of hours during November and December, and in the middle of all of that, I kept forgetting to take my SSRI. In early January, I realized that I hadn't taken my pills in weeks. I've always had terrible sweating and hot flashes on this medication. I mean, it truly affects my life, believe it or not. I'm constantly getting so hot that I can't think. And it's embarrassing because people around me can tell, and even sometimes make menopause jokes (and frankly, I don't find that funny). In addition, I've always had trouble with headaches, and this medication has increased the frequency of the headaches. Finally, I've struggled with weight gain on these meds as well. So . . . because I hadn't taken the pills in a few weeks, because of the side effects, and because I was already having an increase in depression while on the medication anyway, I decided, "Hey, I haven't taken any pills in a few weeks. I'm pretty much off them. So I might as well stay off them and see what happens." Well, certainly nothing good happened. Yes, the hot flashes and headaches are gone. But I'm pretty much an emotional wreck and daily functioning has become much, much harder. The depression has deepened greatly. At first, I thought that my troubles were being caused by the fact that I did not wean off the medication slowly and properly and instead went off them cold-turkey. This was a HUGE no-no. So I've tried to wait it out to see if things would get better once the "withdrawal" phase was over. But that has not happened. So now I have another decision to make. Go back on medication at all? Go back on the same medication or a different one?

I have made one solid decision. I'm marching myself right back into therapy. Yes. Again. Only this time, I really can't afford to keep seeing my beloved psychologist located in Boston. But thankfully, I've found a local CBT/ERP psychologist who is in my insurance network, and she has worked with several of my friends who have OCD, so I feel confident that she has the necessary experience. But I can't see her until April 17th. It's going to be a loooooong 5 weeks. I'm not expecting to be in therapy for long, though. I suspect it will be a tune-up more than anything else.

Yes, I am down now, but I'm surely not out. And neither are you, no matter where you find yourself at this moment.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

It's Not About How We Feel

I wanted to share a post with you from a blogger named Jessica. She has truly great insight into her recovery process from OCD. Though I did not receive treatment at McLean Hospital, I could completely relate to what she said about finding her way back through the scary OCD forest. My absolute favorite part of her post is when she said, "At the end of the day it's not how you felt it's how you lived." (Emphasis mine.) Well said, Jessica. Very well said.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Wishing You a Real Christmas

So often, when people find out that I volunteer a significant amount of time at church, I can tell that they think it's a "nice" thing to do. Or that I must be really devoted to my "religion." Nah. What, or really, who, I am devoted to, is Jesus. Following Him is often not easy to do. I've had to make choices. I've had to, in essence, "draw lines in the sand" for myself. I do this because I believe with every fiber of my being that Jesus is real. He's not just a plastic figurine in a bundle of hay, laying on someone's front lawn for 4 weeks every December. He's more than a story. More than a memory. More than a myth.

Knowing this helps make sense of those stressful holidays, when the dinner is burned (or when a snowstorm knocks out the power and ruins your entire meal), or when you have to deal with that difficult relative again, or when a devastating and painful loss is amplified during this season that is supposed to be "the most wonderful time of the year." He's more than a memory. More than a myth.

I hope that you will find the joy and peace that comes from knowing the real One, the Holy One, the One that makes it all worthwhile. Jesus. Merry, blessed Christmas my friends.

"Real" by Nichole Nordeman

Frozen statues in the cold
Washed in moonlight, blue and gold
Mary's babe in plastic hay
Quiet wonder on her face
Mary you look so serene
Far too pretty, much too clean
We might think we know you well, but what stories would you tell?
Of all the dirt, and dust, and shame, every burning labor pain
And as I turn to walk away, I hear you say
I am real, don't turn me into memory or myth
Let me be real, real
And I'll show you what it means to love this
To be real

Shepherds bending to the ground, Bethlehem is safe and sound
Joseph, you look brave and true
But do we know what it was like to be you?
How many sleepless nights awake, found you desperate and afraid?
And as I turn to walk away, I hear you say
I am real, don't turn me into memory or myth
Let me be real, real
And I'll show you what it means to love like this

To love like you don't even care about the hurry and the hustle
Like you are unaware December comes with so much trouble
Cause you believe a Baby came, not in paintings or in plays
But every minute, every hour, every day
To be real

You are real, real
Show us what it means to love like this
To be real, to be real
More than a memory, more than a story